The Estes Park School District R-3 is excited to announce their focus on Restorative Practices for students and staff throughout the Estes Valley and our school district. Restorative practices work to build community and can help to create calmer, more focused classrooms, in addition to strengthened relationships. When using restorative practice, teachers often find the overall ratio of time spent managing behavior is reduced, and through this reduction, staff are allowed to focus more energy on instructional time and learning pursuits.
On August 17th, in partnership with Estes Valley Restorative Justice Practices, Estes Park School District communicated their planned initiative with a presentation from Melissa Westover, the EVRJP Manager and Executive Director, and Mary Barron, the newly-recruited Restorative Practices Coordinator at the Estes Park School District.
Mary Barron joins the staff at Estes Park Schools through a grant-funded position that will focus on bringing attention to the Restorative Justice Practices in all district schools. She has 20 years of experience in education, including years of experience supporting students with special education services.
The community-based presentation and in-house training provided a great overview and history of restorative practices, how they are used, and why they are successful in school settings. The presentation touched base on the importance of providing framework to help students take responsibility for their actions and see multiple points of view, two very important outcomes that were identified through the Estes Thrives project, last spring. The entire staff was able to join into a firsthand demonstration of using the "Classroom Circle" approach, which will become more visible throughout the Estes Park Schools as the restorative practices collaboration grows. About 150 staff were included in the connection circles as a way to not only provide initial training, but the circles also allowed staff to express their critical next steps in the training process.
As for the ongoing restorative practices work in our schools, Girls Circle and The Council for Boys and Young Men, are set to start the week of Labor Day and run through the end of the semester. The Girls Circle will be available to grades 4 through 12, and the Boys Council will be available to grades 6 through 8.
In addition to the school circles, the school staff members are working on Student Support and Accountability Circles (SSAC). Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) are based on restorative justice principles, giving students an acceptance of responsibility for their roles in both creating and solving problems. The circle represents a bond of mutual respect, understanding, and ownership of the process.
For more information on how you can join the conversation, or to volunteer to help with any of the upcoming scheduled circles, please contact Mary Barron, at Mary_Barron@estesschools.org.
A huge thanks to our partners at EVRJP and to the group of volunteer circle facilitators for the training on August 17th: Bill McNamara, Charlie Waller, Denise Lord, Mary Barron, Melissa Westover, Russ Nehrig, Sarah Davies, Susan Stewart, Curt Plassmeyer, Teri Beaver.